JUBA, South Sudan — The new round of talks following South Sudan’s decision to cut off its oil flow through Sudan failed to produce a deal on the key unresolved issues between the two states. The oil shutdown, a move that drastically changed the negotiating dynamics, was only the latest unilateral action that has caused the gap between the two sides to widen even further. The parties will reconvene in a week, on February 23, according to the South’s lead negotiator.
The talks, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, covered the issues of border security, arrears, citizenship, disputed border areas, and the fees South Sudan should pay to Sudan for pumping oil through infrastructure in the North. The two sides signed a non-aggression agreement at the start of the round, a positive gesture but one that was tainted by allegations that Khartoum bombed disputed territory along the North-South border just days after the pact was signed. No other deals emerged.
In a press conference held yesterday in Juba, South Sudan lead negotiator Pagan Amum accused the Khartoum government of being “liars and thieves.” The southern government also provided the media with the proposals tabled by both sides.
According to these proposals, Khartoum asked for 36 dollars per barrel in fees from Juba, an increase from their previous position of 32 dollars. This fee, as explained by the government of Sudan’s proposal, is the sum total of a transit fee, a central processing fee, transportation fee, and marine terminal fees.
The government of South Sudan, in its proposal, refuted the rationale behind Khartoum’s position, saying such a fee would be “blatantly discriminatory” and was generated via “false statements and incorrect figures.” The South also conditioned a resumption of oil operations on Khartoum’s payment for oil stolen and related damages, the immediate release of all detained vessels, guarantee that no further interference will take place, and commitment to a “fair commercial oil deal.”
It’s the South position that a fair commercial oil deal would entail fees of 69 cents and 63 cents a barrel for transiting oil through the two different pipelines. Once these conditions are met, Juba would be willing to negotiate a financial assistance package with Khartoum, which is dealing with a fast-deteriorating economy.
With positions in this latest round still far apart, and dynamics unlikely to change so soon, it would be surprising if a deal emerged from resumed negotiations next week.
Photo: Soldiers outside of an oil facility in South Sudan (AP)